BYU Wins Holy War

BYU Wins Holy War
George, like Collie and Harline before him, is now still open!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Utah Jazz: Grading Out the Season

A review of the Utah Jazz organization for 2007-08...

It happened again. The Jazz season is over, and they aren't the NBA champions. Yet, another season of failure. Now comes the debate of trying to establish if this season was a step forward or backward. Which players were able to step up their games and demand more playing time. Also, which players do the Jazz need to part ways with.

Deron Williams

Regular Season: A-
Deron Williams ended the season on the All-NBA second team. He has an All-Star season, and should have been on the team in February. (Leading to a very interesting proposition that my brother had that All-Star statuses should be revocable at the end of the season. If a player just takes a nose dive after the All-Star break, then he shouldn't be an All-Star for that year.) In the month of March, Deron Williams had more assists than any other point guard in NBA history since John Stockton. Yeah, that is a huge number. He didn't put up the numbers that Chris Paul did this year; however, he is just as important to the Jazz as Chris Paul is to the Hornets, if not more so than Chris Paul.

Post Season: A
Deron Williams was walking wounded through out the playoffs. There was never any complaints from Deron about his sore butt, his injured wrists, or his bruised calf. That is what made his playoff performance even better. He controlled the games for the Jazz. He never took a night off, and did everything in his power to ensure a Jazz victory. The only negative you could say of Williams was he didn't take over the games earlier. He might not get the national attention due to the Jazz losing in the second round, but he had an amazing playoffs.

Outlook for next season: Larry open up the pocket book and give Deron what ever he wants. We can start working on re-signing him July 8th of this year. On July 8, 2008 12:00:01am should find a offer being given by the Jazz of a max contract, and whatever else he wants (I am thinking Deron Williams Lexus).

Ronnie Brewer

Regular Season: B-
Huge improvement from last season. He cemented his spot as the starting two guard. He improved his game from his rookie season, but still suffered from inconsistency. Although he has so much athletic ability, he never turned into a shut down defender. He was afraid of getting into the face of the person he was defending. His shot, while improved from last year, is still not consistent enough to spread the court for the rest of the team. He does make up for that with his great interior game. With Memo usually prowling the perimeter, it really opened up the back cuts on the baseline for easy baskets.

Post Season: C
Brewer looked a little shell shocked with the minutes he was receiving during the playoffs. He did draw two of the toughest assignments on defense (Kobe and T-Mac). Yet, instead of trying to play physical, and making them work on the offensive end, he tried to just beat them on the other end. His offense during the playoffs was very good. Yet, his defense couldn't keep him on the court. Experience should solve this problem in the future.

Outlook for next season: Brewer is at a position that the Jazz need to change. There is a log jam at the two guard position, and the Jazz need to move some of the players to free up room on the roster. Brewer should be safe to be on the roster. He doesn't have a ton of trade value around the league, and his contract is very good for the Jazz. He needs to continue to work on expanding his shooting range, and he needs to make a commitment to defense for next season.

Andrei Kirilenko

Regular Season: B+
Andrei improved his game. He continued to be a menace on the defensive end, and was able to get a lot of hustle plays; likewise, he developed a consistent mid-range jump shot. He still needs to improve the shooting, but he was on the track to being the Andrei of old. When the Jazz were winning consistently this season, Andrei was playing his type of game. When Andrei struggled on the court, the Jazz also struggled. It looks like the newer sensitive treatment of Andrei by Sloan worked well.
Post Season: A-
Andrei showed up for every game in the post season. One could argue that he didn't show up in the last game of the Lakers series; however, he almost single handily brought back the Jazz at the end of that game. He played great defense on both Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant. He was able to take the ball to the rim in both series, and he turned himself into a facilitator on offense. Many people are angry about Andrei flying to San Fransisco to take care of a VISA problem the day before game six, and in doing so missing practice. Yet, if you read the entire story you find out that Andrei would've been at practice if it was held at the normal time. Sloan moved the practice, and that caused Andrei to miss it. Blaming Andrei is scapegoating (and there are a few things Jazz fans like more than scapegoating). What you got from AK during the playoffs was the Andrei of old.

Outlook for next season: This off season for Andrei should be very interesting. Whether right or wrong, there is going to be the scapegoating attitude by Jazz fans for the entire off season. His salary is going to go way up over the next few seasons. Also, his trade value may never be higher than it is right now. If you were going to trade Andrei now would be the time. Yet, Andrei is the x-factor for the Jazz. If Boozer would have played his normal game in the post season, the Jazz would have been near impossible to beat. If Andrei has another good off season playing for Russia in the Olympics, then he should be ready to continue to improve his game. Although people will be calling for his trade until the deadline next year, he should be on the Jazz in the future.
Carlos Boozer
Regular Season: A-
He was an All-Star. He may have finished the regular season on a low note, but he still carried the scoring load for most games during the regular season. He was also able to turn it on, and to finish off teams in the regular season. Boozer's defense was also improved from last season, when he felt like playing defense. He was also a beast on the boards. He fought for all of the rebounds, and out worked people to get to the ball. The end of the regular season seemed to be the exception to the rule, when looking at the regular season that Boozer constructed.
Post Season: D+
He didn't show up. He had an awful post season. Yet he was still putting up 15pts and 10 rebs on an off night. Looking at Boozer's numbers on the box scores, and it looks like Boozer was just having a minor slump. Yet, his numbers were very misleading. He played scared! He looked out matched while he was on the court, and was only making hustle plays in one game (game three of the Lakers series) in the entire playoffs. His defense was non-existent throughout the playoffs. He would allow anyone on the opposing team to get to the front of the rim. He also allowed his man to beat him down the court often, for easy early offense. What was more disappointing about the manner of Boozer's play was the dominance that he had during the playoffs last year. The Jazz needed his game to win, and Boozer didn't deliver.

Outlook for next season: Hopefully, Boozer's performance in the playoffs this year was an aberration. The Jazz SHOULD NOT do anything in a knee jerk manner, and with Kevin O'Connor at the wheel they shouldn't do anything rash. Boozer is a rock that you can build a team around. He does need to focus on improving his defense. The difference between Boozer being good, which is the level he is at right now, and Boozer being great, which is where all Jazz fans want him to be, is defense. He has the tools to play good defense, he just needs to put in the effort.

Mehmet Okur
Regular Season: B-
Memo continued his play from last season for the first half of the season. He was struggling to find open shots on the court. He was also struggling to stop anyone in the paint. Yet, in the games leading up to the All-Star break, until the end of the season, Okur was great. He really improved his game, thanks in large parts to assistant coach Tyrone Corbin. He also ended the season by playing strong around the basket. He rebounded really well, and was able to add a quality passing game at the very end of the season. The grade would've been higher if he played the entire season with the consistency he had at the end of the season.
Post Season: B+
Memo continued to play well in the post season. He really took over the rebounding responsibility when Boozer started to struggle. He also made many timely baskets. He lacked on the defensive end against the Lakers. He struggled to keep Gasol out of the paint. He also had a problem beating his man back down the court in transition. It was good to see Memo have a good playoffs, after the terrible performance he gave last year. He was able to play well, for the most part, on both sides of the court.

Outlook for next season: Defense. Okur is a player that wants to improve his game. He has the desire to get better. If he wanted to make a huge difference in his game, he would try to commit himself to being a better defender. He may never turn into a dominating player in the post, but he can be a player that will rotate on defense and box out on every position. This off season should be very important to how he develops as a player.

Matt Harpring
Regular Season: C+
With the minute restriction in the first half of the season it was hard to gauge the play of Matt Harpring. When he was contributing to the Jazz he wasn't able to stay on the court long enough to make a difference. Yet, with Matt Harpring you know what you are going to get, hard-nosed play on both ends of the court. He will body up, and really change the offensive mannerisms of the players he guards. Harpring was also able to master the curl shot at the top of the key.

Post Season: C-
The first round Harpring took Tracy McGrady out of his game. He made McGrady afraid to go to the basket. He was also a force when it came to rebounding. Yet, in the second round he went outside of his game and tried to do too much while he was on the court. He shot the ball horribly! He wasn't very effective when he was on the defensive end. For everything that he did well in the first round of the playoffs, Harpring struggled to give the same effort in the second round.

Outlook for next season: Health. That is the main topic of concern for Matt Harpring. The Jazz have Harpring under contract for another four years. Harpring's health will really determine if that was a good/bad contract. Harpring brings to the court what the Jazz need, toughness and grit. Harpring is also a competitor, he will give it all he has while he is on the court. He won't go anywhere in the off season, and his health will determine the impact he has for the Jazz next season. It would be nice if Harpring could become more consistent taking the baseline jump shots.

Paul Millsap

Regular Season: B
What does Paul Millsap need to do to get some respect from the officials? He could get a chair thrown at him from the opposing bench and it would seem like the officials would let it go. Millsap didn't put up the consistent numbers he did a year ago, but that was due to teams knowing about him and targeting him on the defense. Millsap still produced rebounds, and hustle plays for the Jazz. He also started to develop the embryos of a quality jump shot from distance. His interior moves have always been underrated. Although, it did seem like he was in somewhat of a sophomore slump.

Post Season: A-
Foul trouble limited the contribution that Millsap was able to make in games; however, when he was on the court he out played Carlos Boozer in the playoffs. This out playing of Boozer might not have been obvious in the box score, but to anyone watching it was very obvious. Millsap would defend the basket, and would go after all rebounds with tenacity. He also wasn't afraid to take the ball to the rim. Having four "and one" plays in game two was HUGE! Millsap needs to figure out ways to stay out of foul trouble.

Outlook for next season: Millsap is going into a contract year. This year the Jazz have a team option for next year, and there is no reason to think the Jazz won't exercise that option. He needs to continue to develop a consistent jump shot. He took some baby steps to have that shot this season, but it would be big if he developed the shot in the off season. He should be in a Jazz uniform next season. (Update: Millsap needs surgery in the off season,5143,700227432,00.html)

Kyle Korver

Regular Season: B+
Korver came to the Jazz and was an instant pick-me-up for the Jazz. He provided an real three point threat, and he also provided a closer from the free throw line. During Korver-mania it may have been forgotten that his defense is sub par. He had a hard time staying in front of faster players on the perimeter. He also had a tough time picking up the offense. He felt uncomfortable bring the ball up and starting the offense. He also was very streaky during the season. Even when he wasn't hitting his shots, the threat of him hitting outside jump shots opened up the middle of the court for the Jazz.

Post Season: C
If you are going to criticize Carlos Boozer, you need to also criticize Kyle Korver. He didn't show up in the playoffs. He wasn't able to play defense against Tracy McGrady or Kobe, and he also struggled to knock down shots from the outside. He did end up changing his game to contribute to the team. Looking to post up the smaller guards against the Rockets, and hitting the curl shot from the free throw line extended. Yet, the Jazz needed more consistency from Korver to advance in the playoffs

Outlook for next season: He needs to learn how to get his shots in the Jazz offense. He has taken baby steps to know what shots to take, but he is still not there. If possible the Jazz should send him on a trip to train with Jeff Hornacek. He should be taking the same shots in the offense that Hornacek took. He is loved in Utah, and he is built for the Jazz system. There is no way that he doesn't return next season in a Jazz uniform.

Ronnie Price

Regular Season: B
Price's grade may have been higher if he would have had the opportunity to have be the back up from the start of the season. He gave quality minutes to the Jazz when he was on the court. He was also a nice change of pace point guard that really pushed the ball up and down the court, and tried to really follow the offense. He was also able to create his own shot, and to score at the end of the quarters. He never tried to do too much in the offense, and fulfilled the role of the backup point guard well.

Post Season: C
Deron was on the court more during the post season, so Price's minutes were cut substantially. It was his first post season experience, and it was visible early in the Houston series. He did perform well during the time he was out on the court, and provided a spark at time for the offense. He never really had sufficient time on the court to establish a presence, but he did capitalize on the time he did have on the court.

Outlook for next season: Picking up Price was a steal. He is a hard working player, that is alright with the role of coming off the bench and contributing. He is pushing the offense, and typically makes good decisions when he is in the game. He needs to learn the offense better, and become more familiar with the different options he has in the sets. More consistency from beyond the arc would force defenders to guard him around the perimeter and not sink in on offense. It would also allow for more playing time when the other team has a smaller line up. He is a project player, but one that really fits what the Jazz are trying to do.

C.J. Miles
Regular Season: B-
C.J. Miles' development is one of the most pleasant surprises of the Jazz season. There were many questions about C.J. going into the regular season. Most came due to his decision to forgo the Rocky Mountain Review, and his desire to go to another team through free agency. His shooting was improved, as was his defensive mentality (he had one, so that is a lot better than nothing). He also seemed to be more comfortable on the court, and have the mentality that he would be able to contribute anytime he is in the game. He showed sign of his potential this year.

Post Season: I
C.J. played during garbage minutes during the Rockets series, and very limited minutes against the Lakers. There isn't really anything that you could judge him on, except for the fact that he did keep himself ready to go in at anytime.

Outlook for next season: C.J. is another very interesting case. He has some serious potential in the future; however, he is currently the third man in a log jam at the two position, of four players. He isn't going to break into the rotation above Brewer or Korver unless he really improves his game. In this situation it might be in the best interest of all involved if C.J. went to another team to find his future. On another team he would be fighting for a starting position. It would also be good for the Jazz if C.J. moved on, because it would free up a roster spot that the Jazz could use to sign/draft a big. It is very questionable if C.J. will be back in Utah next season.

Jarron Collins

Regular Season: C
Still is a beast when it comes to taking charges. He always came into the game and contributed. He is turning into a very smart player on defense, and is trying to develop a shot that will keep him in the league. Collins is who he is. You know he will always try to take the charge, and that he has awful hands around the basket. He is a solid backup on a good day.

Post Season: B
Collins came into the game to play his game. He played physical, he got in the face of the opponnent, and he was hustling for every loose ball. He was the only player that the Jazz had that was able to matchup with Gasol. For the limited minutes that he played, he really produced.

Outlook for next season: Collins next year will be Collins this year. He won't add anything to his game. He will continue to hustle, and play Jerry ball. As long as Jerry is the coach of the team Collins should find a home.

Jason Hart
Regular Season: F--
Jason Hart was a train wreck. He ran the offense to a stand still, he jump shot is awful, and his defense was never there. The reason the grade was so high (and I am being honest) is because after he was religated to the third point guard position he continued to work and cheer for Deron and Ronnie. That takes some true class. He is a really great person, but the fit just isn't right for Jason in Utah.

Post Season: DNP
The difference for the most part in the post season was Hart had much better seats than I did during the playoffs. He was the first off the bench to give a chest bump or a high five. Also have to give him high marks for the reaction shot faces he would pull after a sweet play by a Jazz member.

Outlook for Next Season: Hart needs to get out of Utah, and the Jazz would be more than willing to allow him to leave. When you are publically saying you wish you would have stayed with a team, while on another team, things aren't going too well. The offense doesn't fit Hart, and the leadership on the court from Hart was never there. There is a player option for Hart, if he is dumb enough to resign (or smart enough considering he might not be getting a lot of offers) then the Jazz need to package him in a deal to get him off the books.

Morris Almond/Kyrylo Fesenko
Regular Season: D-League All-Stars
Post Season: Glorified fans
Outlook for next season: If Almond could translate his D-league game into an NBA than he would have a good shot about contributing next season. Fes is still a year out from making any kind of jump to the NBA.

Jazz Coaching Staff
Regular Season: A
Another performance that was worthy of a Coach of the Year award, from Coach Sloan. Jerry has proven that he is able to adapt his system to integrate other players sytles of play.
Post Season: A-
He could never find a way to get Boozer going. Although the bulk of the other players were able to get rolling in the post season, the head coach has to get a play or two drawn up to get his All-Star going. They had execellent game plans in both rounds. The Jazz did execute the game plan better in the first round against the Rockets.

Outlook for next season: Jerry left a little question in everyone's minds if he would be coming back next season. Yet, it is pretty clear that he is planning on coming back. The more interesting question is what assistant coaches will be coming back next year? Phil Johnson is a leading name for the Phoinex job, and Corbin has interviewed in Chicago for the vacancy there. If both of them were to leave, Scott Layden would be the top assistant coach on the team (what a career saver that would turn out to be after the number he did in New York).

Overall grades
Jazz Management: A-
Adding Korver was a great move, but the Jazz have a log jam at the two spot. The Jazz could also use one more big body in the middle (it would be interesting if the Rafa rumors were true).
Jazz Ownership: A
Old man Miller opened up the wallet and got some talent for the team. He will have to keep the wallet open in order to keep that talent here. As long as Larry H. Miller is really going to do everything in his power to re-sign Deron Williams then his grade will continue to be high.

Cumilative team grade for 2007-08: B
The pieces are in place. The Jazz just need a little more experience, and maybe one more piece in the middle to solidify a team that could compete for a title. Although the Jazz missed another golden oppertunity to get to the Finals this year, and fans might look back and wonder what might have been if the Jazz could have picked up a game in Los Angeles.

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